Honesty of Horse Conversations by Alternative Horsemanship the Remote Horse Coach

One of the things that keeps me “motivated” in working with horses is their honesty. The interaction is not about whether I "like" what their behavior is telling me, but rather recognizing they are offering real-time feedback as to what they are mentally, emotionally, and physically experiencing.

I was talking with an older farrier and a vet over the last several days and a common theme came up discussing owners not acknowledging what has been going on with their horses. Irrelevant if it was an obvious physical issue or an educational one, we all voiced how it often is not convenient for owners to acknowledge what the equine is experiencing- whether due to unrealistic goals, time constraints, lack of consideration, or inability to recognize the horse's communication.

The question I pose to most clients, and yes, too many "wait" until it has “gone wrong” before they seek out help, is “What is your underlining goal with having/riding horses?” The initial response is usually a self-centered thought, i.e. I want to relax and trail ride, I want to compete, etc. Often, it is not until owners find themselves with a horse that is not able to “tolerate” what humans are/have asked/presented to him, that they realize, the relationship between themself and the horse cannot be a one-way interaction if they want to develop a trust-based, quality, successful equine partnership.

So what is considered “successful?” Depends on who you ask. For some it is the ribbon won in the competition, for others it can be as simple as “surviving the ride.” (You may laugh at the latter, but I cannot tell you how many people are riding in constant fear due to the “survival” approach.)

Successful to me means a mentally available, emotionally calm, and physically soft horse. What is “done” with the horse (trail riding, working cattle, competing) I believe should be after a solid foundation is built, rather than being the sole focus of the interaction.

If you took a vehicle that had mechanical problems, or even something as simple as a flat tire, and used it to “perform” (drive, haul a trailer, etc.) you may be able to cover some ground or even get to your destination. But without addressing the problems the vehicle has, you’d always carry some worry, stress, and concern about whether you’d make it without breaking down, having an accident, etc.
And yet, so often with our horses, we get easily distracted by our goals and wants, that our vision becomes clouded as to “what is really going on” with the horse. Sometimes we “see” but don’t want or know how to deal with what our horse is experiencing.

I believe it all comes down to our choice of how we spend our time. I know in past posts I’ve mentioned time and not rushing interaction with your horse, but I cannot stress enough the mental “urgency” we as humans tend to carry with us without realizing it.
Why are we really “rushing” and not addressing what the horse is communicating? Is whatever we had planned so important that we cannot take an extra few minutes to address the horse, or perhaps even “change” what we’d planned on doing with our horse that day if he is in a fearful or defensive state? For most riders, there are lots of “old wives' tales” of have-to that direct and influence their intentions.
I believe the biggest “gift” I can give to students and their horses is allowing them the opportunity to slow down. Literally explaining that they don’t “have” to do anything, letting them experiment with searching for how to help create a change in their horse’s mental and emotional state which then results in adaptable, willing behavior. Remove self-imposed mental “urgency,” and many people get so much more “done” with their horse.
The irony is often in the rushing chaos, little is accomplished, other than teaching the horse anticipation, leading to increasingly unwanted behaviors. As soon as a student’s mental chaos is removed, they immediately see changes in their horse and are usually shocked at how quickly they can influence a change in him.
But most folks don’t know how or when to pursue helping their horse. Many will start with good intentions, but quit communicating before the equine reaches that point of mental changes. Often, they accidentally leave the horse struggling in an anticipative, defensive state, setting up the horse to be more distrustful with every encounter.

So whether anyone else around you is doing it or not, even if you’ve owned your horse for years, please recognize any excessive movement, chaos, busy-ness, distraction, anticipation, tension, heaviness, or other "common" behaviors are not an accident. The horse is honest in what he is communicating, doing the best he can based on his previous human experiences.
Learning to check-in to assess his mental availability and physical state allows one to be proactive in offering relevant, specific communication to help the horse think through scenarios and offer reasonable behavior.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment!